Today's blog is by COCM member Mark Rosenberg M.D., F.A.A.P., from Children's HealthCare Associates in Chicago, Illinois, who writes:
"As recently as two generations ago, when a new parent needed advice on the care and raising of their newborn, the trusted source of information was a grandparent or other close relative. Now the ‘trusted’ source of information is the internet and the various information services available on line. While we owe a great deal to the information revolution on the internet including rapid access to information including libraries of journals that would have required a trip to the university library, there is much to be wary of. Information may be posted by literally anyone, who then becomes an instant expert.
A case in point of the information revolution is recent access to information on vaccines; particularly the celebrity endorsed alternative approaches to immunizing infants. Despite numerous medical studies and epidemiologic research in the safety of vaccines, as well as a track record of reduction in vaccine preventable disease, members of the public have chosen to accept anecdotal stories of alleged harm caused by vaccines. The result has been lower rates of immunization in many areas of the country and the potential for susceptibility to diseases that most pediatricians and emergency departments rarely see including invasive pneumococcal disease and Haemophilus meningitis.
On line parent groups provide another source of information to parents, not unlike the backyard fence that my parents used to chat with neighbors, except that the sources of information are unseen and anonymous. These groups have become sources of health information as well as information about specific physicians. Once one of the physicians in my group acceded to parents’ requests to provide an alternative immunization schedule, she was subsequently identified as the physician to go to, despite not seeking out that role. Word of mouth[on line version] has changed her image and practice. A similar source of information is the blog, an online discussion group frequently within a media source web site. This use of the parent to parent information exchange may have the perception of official sanction when conducted by an ‘official’ media source, such as a newspaper or magazine.
For pediatricians, the challenge is to adapt to the new informational age by convincing families to use validated sources of information and rebuild the confidence in physicians as reliable health care providers. Beyond accurate information medical groups must maintain credibility without conflicts of interest in our relationships with the pharmaceutical industry and vaccine manufacturers. Grandparents play a role in discussing their past experience with vaccine preventable disease. Families need to hear our strong voices as advocates for the health of their children."Do you have a blog post you want to share with COCM members on media issues? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.